Gen Con 2013: Part One – Getting There
Until this summer, the last time I visited Indianapolis was eight years ago, when Jim Carchidi and I covered Star Wars Celebration III for the Tribune Co. At the time, the Star Wars conventions were being run by Gen Con’s parent organization, and I remember the press room coordinator telling us, “This was a lot of fun – but you really should come back for Gen Con sometime.”
To the 2005 version of me, this didn’t sound incredibly appealing. Four days of Star Wars geekery was awesome – but a long weekend of, what? Games? I hadn’t touched a Dungeons & Dragons character sheet in decades, and for tabletop gaming, why would I drive all the way to Indianapolis?
I’m happy to say my horizons have expanded a bit since then, fueled by fantastic friends who’ve re-introduced me to role-playing games over the past several years, and gotten me into a range of tabletop and card games.
I was supposed to go to Gen Con in 2011, but that trip fell through, and last year, a big, family summer trip pretty much knocked everything else off the board.
Summer 2013: Achievement Unlocked. It’s been a week since I got back from Gen Con, where I spent a lot of excellent time with GeekDads Jonathan Liu and Dave Banks – neither of whom I’d seen since 2010 – and my friends Kato & Wendy, who were making their third trip to Gen Con.
It was four straight days of sheer amazing fun, and I’ve been looking forward to sitting down and writing about it.
So: Wednesday Aug. 14, I worked from home, so that Jenn could get me to the bus station on time.
Yep – the bus station. Several reasons, the details of which aren’t really important, but it basically boils down to the fact that my one-way bus ticket was far cheaper than either a single tank of gas or a couple days’ parking in Indianapolis. And since Kato & Wendy had offered me a spot in their car on the way home, that was really all I needed. The negatives? Just two: More time on the road than the roughly five hours it would take to drive myself, and reaching the Indianapolis bus station at 2:30 a.m. Thursday.
Still, Jonathan was due to reach Indianapolis around 6 a.m., and I knew Dave was going to be hitting downtown early, so I planned on just killing a few hours at Union Station, then making the short walk to the hotel once it was light and Jonathan was on the way.
Did I expect to sleep well on the trip? Of course not. Did I fully expect to kick off my first Gen Con trip with a rousing game of Sleep Deprivation vs. Geek Adrenaline? Of course I did. As Clark Griswold says, It’s All Part of the Experience, Honey.
Three legs on the bus trip, then. First up – Interstate 77 southbound, Canton to Cambridge, on a Barons Bus. Extremely cushy, nice ride, quiet and calm. Just about an hour. Dozed lightly.
Bit of a surprise to find that the transfer “station” to the Greyhound line in Cambridge was, in fact, a Marathon station*. Interesting. Four plastic seats available inside, but I opted to stay on the bench out front, since it was a nice evening.
The Greyhound was about a half-hour late, and by the time it arrived, there were maybe 8-10 of us waiting to board. It was a pretty full ride to Columbus. Made small talk with the Amish guy who sat next to me for a bit, then snoozed until we reached the next stop. (For the record: Not as nice a bus as the Barons coach. Little less cushy, little more creaky.)
It was around 11-ish when we hit Columbus. A longer stopover: Everyone had to clear out, even those of us getting back on board to Indy. (Or points farther west: Two of my fellow travelers were headed to Denver and Las Vegas. Yoicks.) On the bright side, when we re-boarded, the bus was maybe half-full, so I had room to stretch across the seat next to me, and I actually got probably 90 minutes of decent sleep over the next 175 miles. Arrived right on time, 2:30 a.m. local time.
I resisted the urge to walk across the street to the White Castle, found a seat away from the busier parts of the station, and settled in for about four hours of sporadic napping, reading, internet-based timekilling, and watching bits and pieces of The Goonies and From Russia with Love on my Kindle.
Got a message from Jonathan shortly after 6 a.m., and headed off to meet him at the hotel. It was light outside, just before sunup, and the early risers were starting to hit the streets wearing their Gen Con admission badges.
Seeing the badges and this table topper in the hotel lobby were reminders of what I love about going to conventions: They’re signs of the collective enthusiasm that reaches beyond the walls of an auditorium or exhibit hall and permeates everything around for a couple days.
Hadn’t seen Jonathan since my cross-country road trip. He sent Dave a quick message letting him know where we were, and the three of us had a hot breakfast at the hotel before walking down the street to the Indiana Convention Center.
* Post-trip footnote: The Google Street view of this station reveals the station’s makeover from a BP to a marathon, through an interesting quirk of photos taken about year apart. Here’s a super-short video.
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